Alexandria, LA – A child custody exchange in a Walmart parking lot turned into a homicide scene on Saturday, when a woman opened fire on her estranged husband as her children looked on.
It was their two-year-old daughter’s birthday, and he had planned to take her and his stepdaughters, ages seven and five, to Chuck E. Cheese, the Town Talk reported.
Alexandria police received a report of “shots fired” at the Walmart store at approximately 11: 15 a.m., and arrived to find a 30-year-old man lying on the ground in the “outer section” of the parking lot, the department said in a press release.
“Emergency personnel responded and attempted to resuscitate the man, but were unable to, and he was pronounced deceased at the scene,” the agency said.
Investigators learned that Thomas had come to the parking lot to meet his wife, 31-year-old Kayla Coutee, so they could exchange custody of their 2-year-old daughter. Thomas had planned to take the little girl to celebrate her second birthday, and arranged to take Kayla’s older daughters along, the Town Talk reported.
After getting the children situated in his truck, Thomas began to get into the driver’s seat to leave the area.
As her children watched, Kayla allegedly fired a single round into Thomas’ chest, then sat down to wait for officers, according to the New York Post.
Kayla was taken into custody at the scene, the agency said in the press release.
The children, who were uninjured, were transported to the police department. They were subsequently released into the custody of family members by the Department of Children and Family Services.
Alexandria police spokesperson Wade Bourgeois said that the couple was separated at the time of the murder, and that Thomas had already filed for divorce, ABC News reported.
According to the Town Talk, court records indicated that Kayla had a history of being abusive towards Thomas, and that she had slapped him in the face in May during another custody exchange.
The two had been arguing about Kayla's boyfriend's alleged drug addiction, as well as her plan to move away, KALB reported.
On Aug. 28, Thomas filed a motion alleging that the joint custody order was “against the law and evidence,” due to Kayla's "history of domestic abuse," and asked the court for a new custody hearing.
Protective orders had also been filed against both Kayla and Thomas in the past, the Town Talk reported.
Kayla was booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center on a charge of second degree murder, police said.
Her bond has been set at $500,000, according to the Town Talk.